Visa and immigration regulations
All visitors need a valid passport. No visa is required in advance. A tourist visa of thirty days will be granted to all visitors with a valid passport. This can be extended for a nominal fee at the immigration department.
Visitors entering Maldives will need a minimum of US$25 a day for their stay (this does not apply to those with a tourist agency or going to work).
Visitors need confirmed hotel reservations for immigration clearance. Any visitor without a hotel reservation should seek help at the airport tourist information desk.
An international certificate of inoculation against yellow fever and by visitors arriving from infected countries.
Vaccinations against tetanus and typhus are recommended. Avoid drinking water from island wells; either boli it or drink rainwater. Though malaria has beer most of Maldives, occasional casesare reported in the northern atolls, and malaria tablets are recommended for travelers to this area.
Maldives is served by major international airlines. Scheduled services are operated by Air Lanka from Colombo; Air Maldives to/ from Colombo, Dubai, Trivandrum and Kuala Lumpur; Bulgarian Airlines, from Sofia and Bangkok; Emirates Airways, from Dubai via Colombo; Indian Airlines, via Trivandrum, India; Pakistan International Airlines from Karachi via Colombo; and Singapore Airlines from Singapore.
There are direct charter flights by many operators from London, Milan, Rome, Vienna, Zurich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki.
Almost all visitors arrive by air. Male International Airport is situated on Hullaule Island, about four kilometers (two miles) or ten minutes by boat from the capital, Male.
Customs and immigration formalities are completed with a minimum of delay. Currency can be exchanged at airport banks and a tourist information bureau offers help and advice. These are open during regular business hours. There is a duty-free shop, restaurant, and non-alcoholic bar in the departure hall.
The airport departure tax is ten dollars, payable only in US dollars.
Firearms, drugs, alcohol and pornography (including publications like Playboy) are banned. As Maldives is an Islamic country, dogs, pigs and pork products are also forbidden.
Alcohol cannot be imported without an official licence. You can buy alcoholic drinks in all major hotels and island resorts.
To visit an island outside Male you need a travel permit from the Ministry of Atolls Administration. These are issued on request to anyone on an organized tour. Independent visitors must produce a letter from a “sponsor” offering accommodation.
Air Maldives operates domestic flights to outlying atolls; from Hulhule to Gan in Seenu Atoll, Kadhdhoo in Laamu Atoll, and Hanimaadhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.
Two companies in Maldives provide helicopter services, for transfers, charters and excursions. One, the longest established, is Hummingbird Helicopters in 22-24-seater aircraft with large, scenic windows. The other is Seagull Airways in twin-engine, air-conditioned 22-seater MI-8Ps, manned by minimum crews of four. Transfer times vary — according to the distances involved — from fifty minutes from Male to Kuredhdhoo on the Lhaviyani atoll, thirty-five minutes to Rangali, Mamigili and Ari Beach on the South Ari atoll, twenty-five to the northern resorts on North Ari atoll, down to a mere ten to Guraadhoo across the water on South Male.
Maldivian Air Taxi
A flight by seaplane over the sparkling ocean to the distant islands and atolls is, for most visitors, an unusual and thrilling experience.
Maldivian Air Taxi (Pte) Ltd provides this service. The air taxi fleet comprises Canadian de Havilland Twin Otter sea planes and Cessna 208 Caravans offering safe, comfortable and time-saving access to the resorts where no runways exist for land planes and which take far longer to reach by boat. The Twin Otter carry eighteen passengers, the smaller Cessnas nine.
Specially adapted yacht-dhoanis can be hired from Voyages Maldives and Ocean Enterprise in Male.
To cruise and explore the warm waters of the Indian Ocean in comfort, Voyages Maldives Pvt Ltd has specialized for over fifteen years in charter boat cruises in custom-designed, motorized sailing boats offering all the modern creature comforts and hospitality without peer.
Sumptuous cuisine, service, and top notch accommodation in airy cabins aboard Koimala (15 guests), Kethi, Gihaa and Gulfaan (eachl2 guests), Sea Coral (10 guests), Sea Farer and Green Peace (each 8 guests) and Sea Ranger (b-8 guests) would be the envy of many a 5-star land hotel. Each vessel has its own experienced, energetic and friendly crew including captain and cook.
Island hopping, from the uninhabited to those where remote fishing and boat building villages have hardly changed over centuries past, or to the handsome resort villages of present times, other priorities might include windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving in the crystal coral reef, and sunbathing. There is no penalty either, for just relaxing aboard.
Male, the capital of Maldives, is about 1.8 square kilometers (more than half a square mile) and has a population of about 70,000. It is the main business, administrative and political centre of the country.
Business hours are 07.30-13.00, Saturday-Thursday. Government offices are open from 07.30-13.30, Saturday-Thursday. Banks are open 09.00-13.00, Sunday-Thursday. The post office is open from 07.30-13.30 and 15.00-17.00 daily.
Friday is the day of worship and government offices and banks close all day. Restaurants and shops close between 11.00 and 14.00 for prayers. On other days businesses close for prayer four times a day for fifteen-minute intervals.
During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, working hours are shortened.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged with authorized money changers at banks, leading shops and tourist resorts. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency a passenger may bring in or take out of the country. The American dollar is the most common foreign currency in use.
There are several international banks with branches in Male, including the Bank of Ceylon, Habib Bank and the State Bank of India. The Bank of Maldives is also located in the capital.
Payments/Credit Cards Hotel payments can be made with foreign currency, travelers’ cheques or credit cards. American Express has an office in Male and their credit cards are widely accepted throughout the capital and on the resort islands. Other major credit cards accepted include Visa, Master Card, Diners Club, J C B and Euro Card.
Officially tipping is prohibited. Unofficially, many guests give a small sum to their room-cleaner and waiter. In the local tea-shops and guesthouses, shukriyyaa, thank you, is enough.
Maldives is a peaceful country where violent crime and robbery are rare. However, do not leave your belongings unattended and lock your valuables in the resort safe.
The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital located on Kabaa Aisaa Higun, Male is equipped for routine health treatment. For any serious illness you should consider flying home. There are also health clinics in each of the atoll capitals which can treat minor illnesses or accidents.
Maldives is five hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and half an hour behind Sri Lanka and India.
The electricity supply on Male is 240 AC round-pin plugs. There are frequent tailures and blackouts. All resorts operate their own generators. An increasing number of islands in the outlying atolls also have their own generators.
Air mail takes about ten days to and from most destinations. Surface-mail parcels take up to six months. Allow at least half a day in the post office if you are sending parcels overseas.
Local handicrafts of gold, silver and brass need customs clearance. There is a fifteen per cent tax on lacquered boxes or wooden products and twenty per cent on jewellery made of black coral or turtle shell.
The satellite earth station in Male provides telephone, telex and facsimile services to any part of the world.
The Maldives Telecoms Company, has made considerable progress since its inauguration in May 1988.
By 1995 12,000 telephone lines with international direct dialling (IDD) to over 180 countries had been installed and plans are in hand to expand the network to all the inhabited islands of the republic, numbering some 200. A fully automatic telephone service exists to 110 islands in ten atolls. The launching of a mobile telephone service for today’s businessmen is imminent.
Public coin phones and cardphones have been provided in key locations and the service is being extended as the network develops. A worldwide telegram service and fax machines connected to normal telephone lines are able to transmit documents both nationally and internationally.
A ship-to-shore telephone service is available to and from ships in the Indian Ocean region via Dhiraagu’s Maritime Radio Station. Dhiraagu, who can supply Telephones, Answer phones, Videophones, Fax machines, Telex terminals, PABX Systems, Key Systems and Pagers also offer a free communications -orcsiltancy service.
International magazines like Time and Newsweek are available every week. The Department of Information also issues a bi-weekly English news bulletin. The local Dhivehi daily newspapers, Aa Fathis and Haveeru, contain a few paragraphs in English.
The government-controlled Voice of Maldives broadcasts from 05.30 to 22.45 daily, with an English news bulletin at 18.00. TV Maldives screens local plays, Hindi films, Quranic recitals and imported Western programmes.
There is one local cinema which specializes in romantic and adventure-packed Hindi films.
Photography of people in mosques is discouraged and it is forbidden to film Theemuge, the President’s residence, and the National Security Service (NSS) Headquarters. Film is available on Male and the resort islands at reasonable prices.
The climate, determined by the two monsoons, is warm and humid. The rainy south-west monsoon begins during April and continues until October, while the generally fine north east monsoon prevails from December to March. The average annual rainfall is 197 centimeters (77 inches). The mean daily maximum temperature is 30°C (86°F) while the daily minimum is 26°C (79°F).
Light cotton clothes are recommended to ward off the heat and humidity. As an Islamic country, Maldives prohibits nudity.
Maldives is 100 per cent Sunni Muslim. Islam is the religion of the state and the backbone of society. Only Muslims are allowed to marry or become citizens.
Dhivehi, spoken throughout Maldives, is a language belonging to the Indo-Iranian group. Its present script, introduced in the late sixteenth century, is written from right to left. English is the second language, although an increasing number of Maldivian speak Arabic.
Maldives has been an independent state throughout its known history, except for a brief fifteen-years period of Portuguese sixteen century. It was a from 1887 to 1965, when independence was proclaimed.
The president is the head of state and the chif executive and defender of the faith. He is nominated by the Citizns Majlis (or parliament) and elected by a public referendum for a renewable term of five years. He is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the supreme authority entrusted with the protection of the country’s religion.
The cabinet consists of the president, vice presidents and ministers. The president appoints all the ministers, who may or may not be members of parliament.
The Citizens’ Majlis is comprised of forty-eight members elected for five-year terms (two elected from each district), and eight nominated by the president.
Maldives is a member of the UN, the Common-wealth, OIC, the Non-Aligned Movement and SAARC. Maldives has diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries. It is also a member of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.